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An Interview With Elton’s Percussionist

Originally Posted by Cheryl Herman
31 December 2010

Elton’s longtime percussionist, John Mahon, has quite a CV. It includes stints as a lifeguard, warehouse manager, groundskeeper, and drum teacher.

This came up during a discussion with ej.w in December 2010. John also shared his thoughts about playing Las Vegas and working with Bob Birch.

Find out more in our Archive of the Month!

A year ago,  recording engineer Tom Gordon and friend Kristian Darling orchestrated the release of a 27-track holiday album which benefited juvenile diabetes research. The run of 10,000 CDs included names like Weezer, Collective Soul and Mike Love.

This year an expanded version of the album, More Hope for The Holidays, was made, and includes an EJ band member, John Mahon. The musician recently spoke with EJW about his work on the charity CD, contribution to a new Jose Feliciano recording (which includes a cover of Elton’s 60 Years On), thoughts on performing in Sin City, and many more topics. . . .

EJW: What was the name of your very first group, and what sort of material did you perform?

JM: I think I played a couple gigs with my brother’s 7 piece horn band, the Washington Square, when the drummer went to college. They did Chicago, James Brown etc…Then I joined a rock band called Sorge Brothers Band. We did lots of Allman Brothers, 2 part guitar harmony rock. Then there was Sneeze, a top 40 band and Hard Times, which was all funk and R&B, like Average White Band, Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington. Being from Canton, such a small city these bands always had the same people floating through them. After that I got into jazz.

EJW: You were a teenager when you decided to become a musician for good. Had you tried any other jobs by then?

JM: Oh yes. I was a lifeguard, a caddy, worked in a lumberyard and drove fork lifts and trucks, managed a warehouse, grounds keeper at a college, music store salesman, drum teacher, made and sold my own bell trees, Hells Bells. Finally, when I was in a decent working band and doing more recording, I decided to go full time, when I was about 23.

EJW: In the early nineties, you were part of the jazz ensemble, the Windows. How many albums did they release, and have they broken up for good?

JM: Windows was started by Skipper Wise and Ed Cohen. Skipper went on to create the very successful Blue microphone company. I recorded Live Laundry, Blue September (where I met Al Stewart and Peter White) and From the Asylum, where I was a featured vocalist. It was an interesting band because we did jazz and pop-ish vocal tunes – one of the original Smooth Jazz bands I suppose. I doubt if we’ll ever play again but you never know. How many farewell-oh-not-really concerts have you seen?

EJW: Who are some rock/pop artists you enjoy listening to?

JM: Elton just gave me an album by Plan B, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. Very cool – R&B I guess you’d call it. I’ve been playing Keith Jarrett. I also have been playing Fleetwood Mac and Journey again – what a band!  Lettuce is one of my new favourites. Progressive Electronic. Stanton Moore‘s band is killer. I put my cable TV on the Holiday channel and what a learning experience that has been. Steve Lawrence had a beautiful voice.

EJW:  You recently sang I’ll Be Home For Christmas, which was released as part of More Hope For The Holidays CD,  the proceeds of which benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Could you tell us about how you became involved and about the experience?

JM: Basically the people doing the project are friends of my sister in Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It just so happened I was working on some Christmas songs and they asked me if I could submit something. My mother and grandmother both had diabetes and I have some good frie

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